The health of children has always been one of Zanmi Lasante’s central concerns, as children are often the most vulnerable to falling ill in the impoverished communities we serve. Of every 1,000 children born in Haiti, 72 of those young boys and girls will die before the age of 5. In the US that number is 8. Following the earthquake, PIH/ZL knew that sick and malnourished children would comprise a large portion of the patients in need of our services. So the team focused on strengthening pediatric and nutrition services at both our existing facilities in the Central Plateau and Artibonite regions, and in the new clinics serving displaced survivors in Port-au-Prince.
An estimated 40 percent of the 146,940 patient encounters logged thus far at the PIH/ZL clinics at the four settlement camps in the capital city were with patients under the age of 20, and roughly half of these were with children under the age of 5. Many of the illnesses these young people present with are related to malnutrition. In response, the team significantly bolstered its pediatric malnutrition program. Over the past 6 weeks, they’ve enrolled 1,191 children, and have distributed Nourimil* and Nourimanba**, locally produced highly nutritious therapeutic foods. So far, 12,255 pounds of Nourimil and 2,016 pounds of Nourimanba have been distributed.
To support mothers caring for young children, the PIH/ZL clinics located in the spontaneous settlements, in partnership with UNICEF, set up special tents. Here, mothers can receive education on nursing and nutrition, weigh and monitor their baby’s progress, and, if needed, receive infant formula. So far, these tents have logged roughly 2,600 visits.
Many families in the Central Plateau and Artibonite regions have taken in relatives and friends fleeing from the chaos of Port-au-Prince. With support from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), ZL’s existing clinics in these regions have expanded their pediatric nutrition program to help local households affected by the earthquake, with the goal of eventually expanding its capacity to treat an additional 2,200 children, growing by over 30 percent.
ZL’s hospital in Boucan Carre, roughly 2 hours by car north of Port-au-Prince, has already logged a spike in the number of children enrolling in their program. “Since the earthquake, we’ve had more children [in the malnutrition program] than we’ve ever had before,” says nurse Thony Magdala, who was recently hired to help manage the growing need. “Every day we are having more and more children coming to the clinic and entering the program.” She estimates about 2-3 children a day on average, but as many as 5-6 on some days. Since she’s started in March, the program has grown from 329 children to over 600. She’s also begun running mobile clinics in some of the remote areas on the fringes of the hospital’s catchment area, all in an effort to help Haiti’s poorest families.
*Nutrient enriched, locally produced mixture of rice, corn, and beans
**Nutrient enriched, locally produced peanut butter-based Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF)
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